A Florida mom has been charged with child neglect after letting her 7-year-old son play at a nearby park alone.

Case draws widespread accusations of police overreach

A Florida mom who allowed her 7-year-old son to play alone in a park less than half a mile from her home is now facing felony child neglect charges, according to WIBW News. Police charged the mother with neglect despite the mother having given her son a cell phone to use in case of an emergency and him being familiar with the park because it was on his usual route to school. The case has led to accusations of police overreach and worries that broadly interpreted laws are making criminals out of otherwise good parents.

Park 15 minutes away

The park, according to the Tampa Bay Times, is less than 15 minutes away from the mother's home. The mother had even placed a cell phone in a case that was hung from the boy's neck so that he wouldn't lose it and he would be able to keep in contact with his mother. However, on his way to the park a pool attendant asked where his mother was and, frightened, the boy ran on to the park.

The pool attendant called police, who asked the boy a number of questions. The police officer returned the boy to his home and charged the mother with child neglect by claiming the park was unsafe and that the area had numerous sex offenders. The mother was taken into custody before posting a nearly $4,000 bond. Although she has been told the charges will likely be dropped, if they are not she could face up to five years in prison.

Case sparks debate

The arrest has garnered plenty of media attention across the nation. Civil rights groups say the case is a clear example of police overreach. Since the mother gave her son a cell phone and was even on the phone with him before the police arrived, which may help show the mother was not neglecting her child. Civil rights groups also say that if the police were truly concerned about the safety of the park, the police could have simply given the family a warning without having to put the son through the trauma of seeing his mother arrested. The mother says the son is now afraid to leave the house because he fears his mother will be arrested if he does.

Others point out that such behavior would go largely unpunished just a generation ago and that the case is an example of broadly interpreted laws making otherwise reasonable behavior into criminal actions. In Florida, one of the problems for parents is that the law does not specify how old a child has to be before he or she can be left to take care of him- or herself, therefore leaving child neglect laws relatively open to the interpretation of individual police officers.

Fighting a criminal charge

As the above story shows, a criminal charge can happen to almost anybody. Anybody who has been charged with a criminal offense needs the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A qualified attorney can help get charges thrown out or help to make sure that any conviction does not lead to an unduly harsh punishment.

Keywords: child neglect, criminal charges, Florida, playing in a park

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